Last night I watched the season finale of Season 4 of the “sitcom” Parenthood. That’s right, I don’t have cable, just Amazon streaming so I am behind the TV curve. I got hooked on this show the minute it was revealed in one of the first episodes that Max, son of Kristina and Adam Braverman, has Asperger syndrome. Max was about 8 at the time, same age as my kiddo. The emotion surrounding Max’s diagnosis in those first few episodes I caught was real, yet wonderfully therapeutic and escapist for me, as TV can sometimes be. I had been feeling pretty good about all things Finbar during that period, yet I would find myself balling my eyes out at some point during the show (and still do, it is pathetic really, but it feels soooo good to have a good cry). Or, I would find myself running scenes of the show over and over again in my head, inspired by the actions of Max’s parents. So, periodically, my husband and I have been sitting together to watch 3-4 episodes a night (we promised not to watch it without the other), bonding over our shared ability to relate to the Braverman’s experiences with Max and his Aspergers. For anyone who wonders what the big deal is about raising Finbar or any kid with Aspergers is, watch this show.
|Kristina trying to get through to Max. Skittles anyone?|
Monica Potter, the actress who plays Max’s mom is my new favorite actress and superhero. She nails her role as Max's mom portraying her with the grace, fear, sadness, strength , dignity, hope and especially comedic timing and HUMOR that I aspire to. I know that the Bravermans are not a real family and that Kristina is not a real mom to an Aspergerian, but I don’t care, they so easily could be. The actors who portray Max and his parents are so genuine in their reactions to different challenges and situations, many of them very uncommon in a "normal" household, that at one point I just had to find out how they were pulling this off. Surely, someone on the writing or production team of this show must have a son with autism. I learned that there is a behaviorist specialized in autism on the production staff who runs through every scene that Max is in in detail before shooting. They carefully plan out every reaction he has, everything he says, as well as that of any other actors in the scene to make sure that it is authentic. And it truly is. It is in fact so authentic that every time I see Kristina trying to “get through” to Max unsuccessfully, I cry for her. I cry for me. I cry for other parents like me who are watching the show and relating to it too. (Did I mention that I like to cry a lot during this show LOL?) And when Max surprises his parents with a breakthrough, as in the case of agreeing to shower more regularly washing “my armpits, balls and bum like Dad told me too.” I celebrate too as if it is my own son. Just days before watching that shower scene on Parenthood Finbar bragged to me that he now washes HIS armpits “like Dad showed me to, want to smell them, mom?” That's authentic. When Max's parents bribe him shamelessly with stickers and Skittles when they can’t get control of him (we use video games for bribery, err, I mean "rewards"), or when Kristina breaks social protocol with other moms on behalf of her son, I feel some relief that someone actually knows about this stuff, and that 5 million people are seeing this on TV and are being educated about kids like mine and their families.The other night, I watched an episode in which Max, furious that the vending machines in his school were removed, decided to run for student council President so that he could bring them back. His parents were divided as to whether this was a good idea. His Dad Adam was against it believing that Max would be damaged by the students ridiculing him. His mother, Kristina wanted to support Max and let the chips fall where they may. She figured that it would be a good learning experience one way or the other for Max. I put myself in her shoes and agreed with this sentiment in the end. I am learning to let Finbar put himself out there even when I think it means that he may get hurt (more on that in my next blog). The important thing to understand in this scenario is that Max not only was not popular and had almost no social skills or friends, he also ONLY cared about fixing the vending machine situation, nothing else. He was obsessed and that is all he talked about. Max's sister Haddie volunteered to be at his speech. Just before Max made his speech, the following dialogue transpired. She may as well have been talking to Finbar…
Haddie: You know, Max, there actually are some qualities about you that would make you a good president.
Max: I know.Haddie: Like, you’re super tenacious, and you’re funny.
Max: What do you mean by tenacious?
Haddie: I mean you don’t give up on things. You’re persistent, and if you believe in something, you follow through. And, also, you have a good memory. It’s like really scary good.
Max: I know right?
Haddie: Do you remember your speech?
Max: Of course I do. You just said I have a good memory (LOL).
When Max got up to make his speech this is what he said:
I’m Max Braverman, (adjusts microphone awkwardly while audience giggles), I’m Max Braverman and I am running for student council present. If elected as president then I will bring back vending machines that used to be in our school. And that’s why you should vote for me. (More giggles, then a long silent awkward pause, then he musters). Also I’m very tenacious. It means being very persistent. I am like this because I have something called Asperger’s. Having Asperger’s makes some things very difficult for me, like looking people in the eye or saying hello. So I don’t do those things very often. Some things also come very easily to me because I have Asperger’s, like being smart and remembering almost everything. Also it means being tenacious. And so I will be tenacious about the vending machines. Another thing about Asperger’s is that I always keep my promises. So when I tell you that I will bring back the vending machines, you can believe me. Some people say that having Asperger’s can sometimes be a bad thing, but I am glad that I have it because I think that it is my greatest strength. (Audience starts cheering and hollering “vending machines”)
Max won the election. Is that realistic TV? I think so. Is Asperger’s Finbar’s greatest strength? I am starting to think so..PS. Parenthood returns to NBC this fall for its 5th season 10/9c...somebody please DVR it for me!